Carla joins Staples president and CEO, Shira Goodman and Allison Cole Philbert, vice president of field operations for Verizon New England, and others who share their secrets of success with The Boston Globe. Read highlights below, and head to The Boston Globe for the full article:


Not all high-powered executives get up with the sun — or before it — but making sure they have a few hours to themselves before the world starts crashing in was a consistent pattern among the women we spoke with. Many use the wee hours to work out, so they can “start the day with a bunch of endorphins and adrenaline,” says Elaine Herrmann Blais, a partner in the Boston law firm Goodwin Procter. But others use the time to get ahead of the day. “It’s quiet, so you can think clearly,” says Carla Harris, vice chairman of wealth management and a senior client adviser at Morgan Stanley in New York and a keynote speaker at the Massachusetts Conference for Women, taking place December 8. “There are not a lot of interruptions, with people walking into your office, the phone ringing, e-mail getting populated. So even if I’ve made a list of tasks the day before, I have the opportunity to think about it and maybe change my priorities for the day.”


“I live and die by my calendar,” says Thomas, echoing the sentiment of nearly every executive we spoke with. Most use electronic calendars, color-coding various areas of their lives, though Thomas doesn’t believe in color-coding personal events differently. “I would think I don’t really have to do those things,” she explains.

Allison Cole Philbert, vice president of field operations for Verizon New England, carries a paper notebook at work to jot down “action items” and adjust priorities for the week, depending on the company’s productivity. She also uses a whiteboard at home to track kids’ activities.

One of the things Morgan Stanley’s Harris sometimes does during her quiet time in the morning is block out her day, planning to do task X between, say, 9 and 10 a.m. before moving onto task Y. “It creates the challenge and the focus,” she says. “If you know you have 45 minutes to get something done, you don’t allow your mind to wander and can stay right on that thing. Then when that time comes, I’m stopping, whether I’m done or not.” This helps her make deadlines — which are also time-blocked, but not quite accurately. “If my deadline is Thursday at 5,” she says, “I tell myself it’s Thursday at noon,” giving her a cushion in case of an emergency.


“I am a list girl,” Harris admits. “I make a to-do list the night before, so when I come in, I just need to ask myself one question: What does success look like today?”